Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Olive Bread

I did it!! I made bread! From top to bottom I made it! I've never made bread before, so this was a huge accomplishment. I was dancing around my kitchen, called Chako at work, sent phone pictures to everyone. It's so yummy! I researched all last night, like a tool. Read about how to make yeast rise best, different types of bread I could make. I decided on an olive bread. I found several recipes, committed them all to memory, and set out on my own...stupid, you ask?? Maybe. I like to think AMBITIOUS!!!

I used yummy, delicious black olives, but you could probably use whatever you'd like!


Kneaded like four times, let rise and knead again...then spread out on a corn starch dusted baking sheet...

And got this!! 

So delicious! Crunchy on the outside, chewy and soft on the inside. Next time I want to work on shaping the bread to my taller and more loaf like and for the olive variety I think I'd like to add rosemary. I MADE BREAD!!!!!

Olive Bread

You'll need...
3 cups of bread flour
3/4 cups of chopped black olives
2 tsp of active dry yeast
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp GOOD virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups of warm water
corn starch

Mix together olives, flour, yeast, sugar, salt, oil and water. Turn your dough onto a floured surface, knead for about 10 minutes, then leave to rise for about 45 minutes. Knead again for 5-10 minutes, then let rise for about 30 minutes (or until double in size). Transfer your dough to a bowl lined with a towel that is very well floured. Allow to rise once more, till it doubles in size. Meanwhile, put a pan of water in an oven preheated to 500 degrees. Turn your dough onto a well oiled baking sheet, dusted with corn starch. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then lower heat to 350 and bake for another half hour or until  your bread is fully cooked through! EAT WARM WITH BUTTER AND BE SO HAPPY YOU DID IT!!!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricane Food & Marlene's Tzatziki Sauce

Well we survived the hurricane..or tropical storm as it became. It was pretty dramatic. We were scheduled to have shows Saturday and Sunday night, and we had to cancel. Then Chako and I rushed home with my parents who were seeing opening night, moved all of our furniture away from the big old windows, threw all our dirty laundry into large bags (it had been weeks), and put the cats in their carriers and whisked the whole family off to Connecticut to hide out from the storm in a house that was less likely to leak and was definitely stocked with cheese, capicola and a full case of red wine. Literally, this was what they had.

We basically sat around for 2 days and ate and drank. I went food shopping in the morning to stock up on "hurricane stuff", or to cook a giant a feast. I made homemade ricotta, a few different kinds of bruschetta, manicotti, and a new one...a KEY LIME PIE!!! it was super tasty. Unfortunately, in our haste to get out of the apartment I didn't think to bring the camera, so no shots from the pie making party. I will make it again to post the recipe soon, it's Chako's favorite dessert, which is why I wanted to try it out, so I'll be sure to make it again as a treat for him. This one came out a big too tart, so next time I'll use slightly less key lime juice, it'll be even better when I post it. It is a good use of stuck in the house because of bad weather task...squeezing 2lbs of key limes.

We made it home after the storm, my parents ended up losing power several hours AFTER the storm, and it looked like they wouldn't get it back for a week! So many huge trees came down around Connecticut and took down a ton of power lines. Driving back to the city was really bizarre. My parents are flying to Puerto Rico for a month tomorrow, AND they had no power, so we were able to get basically everything from their fridge and freezer! Yay! Fully stocked! So much meat!  We just wanted to hang out once we got back to our own space, and the cats were beyond thrilled to be home. Since we enjoyed it so much, my dad sent us home with an incredible italian cheese, not really sure what is is, like a very soft parmesan, sharp and addictive. Thanks Pops! We just watched some TV, laid around and ate cheeeeese.

My mom also gave me a really beautiful cheese plate and cutting set, only one of the knives is pictured here. I'll have to make a fantastic cheese plate to show you the whole set.

For dinner, I made some long time favorites. Pork chops marinated in Worcestershire Sauce, garlic powder and Adobo, basmati rice, my mom's tzatziki sauce and a sweet salad.

The  yogurt sauce is one of my all time favorites from childhood, my godmother and her husband used to  make it and my mom started and we eat it with EVERYTHING! White rice, pork, chicken, steak, spanish rices, vegetables...you name it. You only need a few simple things, plain yogurt, cucumber, garlic power, adobo, dried parsley.

The salad was baby spinach, dried cranberries, crumbled goat cheese, walnuts with oil and vinegar with a little bit of oregano and sugar.  All together, a classic, simple week night dinner. 

Marlene's Tzatziki Sauce

You'll Need...
Plain yogurt (I used low fat), 1/2 of a large container
A Cucumber, peeled and diced
Garlic Powder
Dried Parsley

THERE ARE NO MEASUREMENTS!! Mix it all together to taste! Easy peasy

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sunday Brunch: Eggs Benedict

I have always had to work on weekends. As far back as I can remember I have always either had rehearsal, or a restaurant shift, every Saturday and Sunday morning as far back as I can remember. I've always rushed out the door in the mornings with a cup of coffee and a granola bar. I can often sleep in on weekdays, but since Chako and everyone else heads off to work, I have no one to share my brunch adventures with, so I get lazy and eat cereal. 

For the first time in my life I have my weekends off...real, actual weekends!!  I've decided to enjoy the little things that this allows. I'm going to start a tradition of going to the farmers market on Saturdays, and cooking a special brunch on Sundays! Chako is very excited about said plan. 

Today I made eggs benedict, with toasted baguette and prosciutto. So tasty! I love prosciutto. Seriously. More then most things. A good fresh, salty, thin slice of prosciutto pairs deliciously with eggs and hollandaise sauce. As you can see above, even the Bean the kitten wanted a taste. 

This came out incredibly delicious, but didn't plate very well. I had two problems. My hollandaise had the perfect flavor but I didn't let it thicken quite enough and it didn't stick to the eggs as much as I would've liked, and I screwed up poaching the eggs. I know, I have a food blog, I should be able to poach an egg perfectly. I was trying something new!! Chako bought me this super cute heart shaped egg poacher and I decided to try it out. Unfortunately it didn't work quite as well as classic poaching. It gave me more of an over easy egg. Still delicious with every thing, but not as runny as I like or as attractive on top of the bread and prosciutto. I'll get it better next time, but it was absolutely DELICIOUS. Try and make it, send me a picture if it turns out prettier then mine!!

Two of my favorite things: Crunchy baguette and PROSCIUTTO!!!


Don't have a double boiler?? Me neither! Our kitchen is way too small to store one. IMPROVISE!

Toast up some bread...

Top with salty heavenly prosciutto!

Eggs...(mine look like eyes...failed poaching...)

Then top with your tasty hollandaise sauce...mmm.

Eggs Benedict with Baguette & Prosciutto

You'll Need...
2 eggs (for poaching)
2 slices of baguette
Hollandaise Sauce (recipe to follow)

Toast your baguette, top with prosciutto, I piled it on! Poach you eggs, lay on top of the meat and drizzle with hollandaise sauce!

Hollandaise Sauce 

You'll Need..
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup of melted butter
1/4 tsp of Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp of water
2 tbsp of lemon juice
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper to taste
Double boiler (or a saucepan with a metal or pyrex bowl that sits on top of it )

Fill the bottom of your boiler with water so that it doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl on top. Bring the water to a calm simmer. In the bowl, whisk together the yolks, worcestershire sauce, water, lemon juice, and cayenne until combined. Slowly add the melted butter whisking continually until it's all incorporated. Keep whisking so that the egg doesn't cook and the butter doesn't curdle. You can add water the sauce is thickening too much. Keep warm until you serve it, try and serve immediately!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

More Bruschetta...hey it's summer!

I got to have a nice little dinner party with my best buddy Sarah! It was lovely, we drank a ton of red wine, ate linguine con vongole, and made some bruschetta. The exact evening I needed this week. She posted a comment last week on my ricotta bruschetta post, about her favorite bruschetta, so we grabbed the ingredients to try it out, plus an old reliable combination. 

1. Bruschetta with goat cheese, prosciutto and red grapes

2. Bruschetta with fresh mozzarella and prosciutto

We were literally forcing ourselves to eat slow, for fear of running out. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Easy Pasta Starring Fresh Veggies

Sometimes I have random stuff in my fridge that needs to get eaten pretty quickly. This dish incorporates several of my favorite kitchen staples, throws together really easily, and is deliciously light and healthy. You can also adjust this recipe to incorporate your favorite fresh veggies and cheese, whatever you have at home will work! I used zucchini (my summer love), and fresh grated parmesan, but I would try this with mushrooms, peppers, ricotta, goat cheese...really whatever you'd prefer!

Three of my all time favorite things...

Cook your veggies in some oil, add your favorite herb (I chose dill!)

Cook up some pasta (I use whole wheat rotini, any curly pasta will do)

Mix it all together with...CHEESE

Add some more cheese and..VOILA!

Easy Pasta Starring Fresh Veggies

You'll need....
** I should point out I rarely really measure anything for this recipe, so these measurements are close, but feel free to add more of what you like and play around. 
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 zucchinis (or veggie of your choice)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup white wine 
1 tbsp lemon juice 
1/2 tbsp dill (or herb of your choice, thyme is always delicious)
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese (again, dealers choice)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook your pasta, drain, and put back in the pot. Add a little oil to keep it from sticking.

In a pan, sauté your shallots until soft, add your garlic until it looks and smells like heaven. Add your zucchini and sprinkle on your dill. Cook until soft and slightly browned, but not soggy and mushy. Add the wine and lemon juice, stir and allow to come to a boil then let simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the contents from the pan into the pot with the pasta, mix together. Slowly add the cheese while mixing so it melts, but not too quickly so that it doesn't clump into one big ball and stick to your spoon. Serve with a little extra parm sprinkled on top. Enjoy!

Back from Chicago

Chako and I just returned from our long weekend in Chicago, visiting friends, enjoying a beautiful wedding and eating incredible food. Our dear dear friends Matt and Don invited us to stay in their lovely apartment. They are both incredible foodies, both have worked at all the best restaurants in Chicago. They pointed us in the direction of incredible eats in the city. 

Sadly, our little point and shoot digital camera that we brought with us is having some problems uploading to my computer, so pictures will have to wait..but a brief description of our two most exciting meals is in order.

For dinner on Saturday night we took a chance at trying to get a last minute spot at the The Purple Pig.

We didn't think we'd have a shot, but by some god given chance, there were two seats available at the kitchen counter, a great spot that directly over looks the kitchen, we were seated right next to the expeditor and just overlooking the Head Chef, Jimmy Bannos Jr. It was an awesome view, why people wouldn't want to sit there is beyond me. We had a great time. For dinner we had...

Course #1
Cheese and Charcuterie- Prosciutto di Parma, Blu di Bufala, Truffle Tremor, Parmigiano Reggiano

Course #2
Salt roasted beets with whipped goat cheese and roasted pistachios

Course #3
Greek salad 

Course #4
Pork Blade steak with 'nduja and honey

Course #5
Affogato with hazelnut soft serve
Summer Berry Crostata

It was an absolutely divine meal. We split everything and it was the perfect amount of food for the two of us, that blade steak was huge! Next time we are in town and go back (as we will!) we need to try the bone marrow and the pastry fried ricotta dessert. Highly recommend you check this place out if you are in the Chicago area! 

For brunch, Matt & Don took us to one of their favorite places, Jam.

This has incredible and creative brunch items. Great coffee and of course, great jam!

Course #1
Pastry- Peach coffee cake
Scone- cinnamon raisin

Course #2 (Chanty)
Eggs Benedict- english muffins, poached eggs, crisped pork belly, fennel hollandaise, roasted fennel

Course #2 (Chako)
Savory Buckwheat Crepes- braised lamb, asian pear, hazelnut-sage glaze

Course #3 (for the table...)
Malted Custard French Toast- macerated rhubarb, lime leaf cream, pink peppercorn

It was so good, I was so full. You know how people are always saying, "Nothing is better than bacon"? Well, NOTHING IS BETTER THAN CRISPED PORK BELLY!! Just saying.

Going to try and recreate some of these things soon, get ready.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Walnut & Cinnamon Muffins

I got a great new book, simply called, Cupcakes & Muffins. 200 cupcake and muffin recipes. Chako is going to have to try a lot of baked goods. This recipe turned out great, light and moist, with a lovely taste of cinnamon and a nutty flavor. My only regret is that I didn't double the cinnamon. Definitely double the cinnamon. That flavor being a little stronger would've put these little muffins over the edge. Your call! We have been eating them with milk for dessert at night and with coffee for breakfast.

Walnut & Cinnamon Muffins

You'll need...
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I am going to double this next time!!)
pinch of salt
Heaping 1/2 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup walnuts, coursely chopped
2 eggs
generous 1 cup milk
6 tbsp sunflower oil OR 6 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp baking powder

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper liners.
Mix/sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and walnuts.
Place the eggs in a large bowl and beat lighting, then beat in the milk, oil and vanilla extract. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the beaten liquid ingredients. Stir gently until just combined; try not to overmix! Spoon the batter into the paper liners.
Bake in the preheated over for about 20 minutes, or until well risen, golden brown, and firm to touch. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy a sweet treat! 

Chako and I are headed to Chicago for the weekend for a wedding and visiting some friends. I'll post some pics from our trip in a few days! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Homemade Manicotti with Ricotta Cheese

Best thing ever. Chako gives this dinner 11 stars...or "the best thing I've ever put in my mouth." 

I was fearful of trying manicotti from scratch, I thought it would be really challenging and a big mess and be hard and chewy. Not the case. It's super easy, not super time consuming and comes out delicious. This recipe is from The Essential New York Times Cookbook, a big favorite in my kitchen, and it's by Craig Claiborne & Pierre Franey, from their June 12, 1977 "Food: The Crepe Cult".

What makes this manicotti so special is that the manicotti is not made out of pasta, like lasagna, the way you often get it in Italian-American restaurants, this manicotti is made out of Parmesan-flecked crepes.  HEAVEN!!!

Try it! It's easy. The recipe is below, I halved the recipe to make for just Chako and I, but we easily would've eaten the whole 4 servings...probably for the best I made the smaller amount....

You'll mix together ricotta (I used the homemade, definitely makes a difference...), egg yolks, nutmeg, parmesan, black pepper, and salt.

Then you'll make your crepes, like making pancakes...but with parmesan cheese.

Wrap the ricotta in the crepes, and put in an baking dish with tomato sauce (homemade..yea!!!). Spoon more sauce on top! More parm!! You get something that looks like this...

Bake it!! YEAAAAA!!! Sooo goood! End up with...

Manicotti with Ricotta Cheese
You'll need...
2 cups ricotta
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup plus 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
Freshly ground pepper
Parmesan Cheese Crepes (recipe follows)
2 cups tomato sauce (homemade is best! my recipe to will be posted soon)
2 tbsp butter, melted

Heat the over to 400 degrees.
Combine the ricotta, egg yolks, parsley, salt to taste, nutmeg, 1 cup Parmesan, and pepper to taste and blend well.
Spoon equal portions of filling down the middle of each crepe and roll it up.
Spoon about 3 tbsp of sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Place the rolled up crepes, seams down in the dish. 
Spoon the remaining sauce over the crepes, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan, then pour the melted butter over all!
Bake until heated through, about 20 mins.

Parmesan Cheese Crepes
You'll need...
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 cup whole milk (I actually used 2%....just saying)
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Butter for the crepe pan

Scoop the flour into a bowl and add the egg and salt. Add milk while whisking. Add the melted butter and cheese. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Heat an 8-inch crepe pan over medium heat. Butter the baking surface. Pour about 1/4 cup of the crepe batter into the pan and spread over the base. Cook until browned, flip and cook til the other side is browned. Repeat with remaining batter. 

Don't stack the crepes! They are kinda sticky and delicate. I made them as I was going so they went directly into the baking dish.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

We went bruschetta crazy...

The ricotta is so good. So much bruschetta has been made.

Starting from upper left:
1. Herbed ricotta
2. Ricotta with Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar
3. Ricotta with clover honey
4. Ricotta with fresh basil and parmesan
5. Ricotta with Apricot jam

Chako freaked out over the one apricot jam. Big winner.

Welcome! Have some Herbed Ricotta!

I made my own homemade ricotta...I can't even believe it. It's so freakin' good. Well first, I totally botched it, having no idea about anything of cream to milk ratios, I tried to use way too much cream and ended up with this sour cream like milky stuff, not very ricotta-like at all. So I tried again, I was determined. After a full week of searching online for people's homemade cheese experiences and seeing how easily people make their own ricotta, I was determined to have great results. Second time around was a big winner. Creamy yet firm, with a fantastic flavor. I was thrilled. Literally jumping, ran to Chako's desk with dripping cheesecloth to show him.

Thus began my night of bruschetta. I tried a whole variety. Bruschetta with ricotta and raspberry balsamic vinegar drizzled on top, with different kinds of honey drizzled on top, with basil and parmesan, nothing doesn't go with fresh ricotta on crunchy toasted baguette slices.

The big winner of the night though, was a recipe borrowed from the incredible Shutterbean, Herbed Ricotta Bruschetta.  It's quick, easy, and absolutely decadent. If you don't want to make your own ricotta, you can just make this recipe with good quality ricotta that you buy at the store.

Herbed Ricotta Bruschetta

You'll need...
1 cup fresh ricotta
Olive oil (I tend to use a lot...)
3 tbsp minced scallions
2 tbsp dill (the original recipe calls for fresh, but my store was out, I used dry and it was great)
1 tbsp chopped chives
Salt & pepper
A baguette
A clove of garlic, cut in half

Combine your ricotta, scallions, dill, chives, and salt & pepper to taste in a bowl. Set aside.

Heat your grill, or pan or in my case, tiny electric counter grill. Cut your baguette into rounds, about 1/2 inch thick. Dip each side of the bread in the oil, then grill each sides until nice and crispy. Rub one side of the bruschetta with garlic, and spread your herbed ricotta on top. Garnish with a sprig of fresh dill or a sprinkle of dried (like me!). Enjoy. Eat one before you bring the loot to others, or you might not get your fair share...